15 Super Expensive Secondary Schools

Famed actor, Steve Carrell, is a graduate of Middlesex School.
Famed actor, Steve Carrell, is a graduate of Middlesex School.
Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images

We decided to put a price on education with the following look at of some of the most expensive secondary schools in the county. All tuition data are from the 2008-09 school year and only schools that welcome day students are included.

1. Lawrenceville School "“ Lawrenceville, NJ

Day School Tuition: $34,680

History: Lawrenceville was founded in 1810 as the Maidenhead Academy and "refounded," according to the school's Web site, as the Lawrenceville School in 1883. It was at that time that the school's famous House system, whereby students are assigned to live in one of 20 residential houses with a resident housemaster and unique identities, was implemented. Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who is most famous for designing Central Park, was responsible for the Lawrenceville campus' circle. The school was all-male until 1987.

Notable: Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah honed his skills for the Big Red in Lawrenceville's basketball gym. The school's other impressive athletic facilities include an indoor ice hockey rink, a nine-hole golf course, 10 squash courts, 12 tennis courts, and a world-class ropes course. The ropes course, designed by an expert in outdoor experiential education, enables students to build trust in one another and confidence in their own abilities.

Course Catalog:

At Lawrenceville, students can learn more about Canada than they ever did from South Park with a history course titled, "Through the Looking Glass: Canada, a Different North America." Many classes at Lawrenceville are taught using the Harkness method, which involves professors sitting around oval tables with their students to facilitate class discussion.

Famous Alumni: Disney mogul Michael Eisner and singer Huey Lewis graduated from Lawrenceville before attending Denison and Cornell, respectively.

2. Concord Academy "“ Concord, MA

Day School Tuition: $34,700

concord.jpgHistory: Concord Academy, or CA as it's commonly known, was established in 1922 as an all-girls school for grades 1 through 12. Enrollment during CA's early years was small "“ only 20 students graduated in the class of 1948 "“ but grew as the institution transitioned into an independent high school. CA became coed in 1971 and today boasts an enrollment of 367 students, less than half of whom live on campus.

Notable: The chameleon, CA's symbol of adaptability, has been associated with the school for more than 80 years. It has been adopted as the mascot for CA's 23 athletic teams and is engraved on the class ring. It is also the namesake for CA's literary magazine.

Course Catalog: In the spring of 2010, CA will offer a new course titled, "Latin American Literature: Magical Realities." The course will examine the works of the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges. The course fills the void left by another English course, "Gay Literature: In and Out and In-Between," which was originally scheduled to be offered but is crossed out in the current version of the online course catalog. The first Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) was formed at Concord Academy in 1988 by teacher Kevin Jennings.

Famous Alumni: In addition to author Julia Glass and Caroline Kennedy, CA's list of graduates includes a queen and a "Juice Guy." Queen Noor of Jordan and Tom First, one of the founders of Nantucket Nectars, both attended Concord.

3. Middlesex School "“ Concord, MA

Day School Tuition: $34,250

middlesex.jpgHistory: Middlesex was opened as an all-boys school in 1901 by Frederick Winsor, who hoped to "find the promise that lies hidden" in every student. Winsor helped establish the National Scholarship Program, which the school claims was the first of its kind for a secondary school. While Middlesex, which became coed in 1974, used to be closely affiliated with Harvard, its graduates now attend a variety of colleges and universities. The school's campus was designed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Notable: The 1992 movie School Ties, the story of a Jewish boy at an elite prep school during the 1950s, was filmed at Middlesex. The movie stars Brendan Fraser, Chris O'Donnell, and Matt Damon. Of the three, Damon is the only one who attended a public high school.

Course Catalog: In addition to interest-piquing courses such as "Mystery in Literature" and "Biomedical Ethics," students may enroll in "CSI: Middlesex, Introduction to Forensics." Lab activities will accompany each topic, which may include fingerprinting, DNA analysis, toxicology, and blood splatter analysis.

Famous Alumni: Bill Richardson, William Hurt, and Steve Carell all attended Middlesex. Before The Office became one of the most popular shows on television, Carell said that his backup plan was to teach high school history and coach a few sports at a New England prep school. Having Michael Scott as your history teacher might be worth the price of admission.

4. Milton Academy "“ Milton, MA

Day School Tuition: $33,150

milton-academy.jpgHistory: Milton Academy was founded in 1798 with the goal to "open the way for all the people to a higher order of education than the common schools can supply." After celebrating its centennial, Milton Academy divided into separate boys and girls schools. The school eventually returned to its coed roots and today boasts an equal number of boys and girls among its 680 students.

Notable: Every other year since 1977, Milton Academy has hosted a Seminar Day, when it invites local and international experts in a variety of fields to come to campus and speak to students. Recent guests have included lawyer Alan Dershowitz and editorial cartoonist Dan Wasserman.

Course Catalog: Sometimes learning how not to do something is just as effective as learning the correct way. That seems to be the logic behind the course, "Engineering for Failure: Structures and Their Demise." As part of the course, students will build various structures and test them to the point of failure.

Famous Alumni: T.S. Eliot graduated from Milton Academy in 1906, while Robert F. Kennedy attended the school for one year.

5. Lawrence Academy "“ Groton, MA

Day School Tuition: $33,900

lawrence-acad.jpgHistory: Lawrence Academy was chartered by Gov. John Hancock and founded in 1793. The school's main building burned down on July 4, 1868, as the result of a fire started by boys who were playing with firecrackers, and the school suffered extensive damage in a second fire that erupted during baccalaureate services in 1956. Lawrence Academy was coed from the time of its founding until 1898, when it transitioned to an all-boys school. The school, which became coed again in 1971, has an enrollment of roughly 400 students.

Notable: During the fall, students wear costumes and compete for bragging rights in the 2-on-2 Bos'n Ball soccer tournament, which was created by the boys' varsity soccer team to honor Bos'n, a faculty member's dog, who was struck and killed by a car.

Course Catalog: Insect lovers will jump at the chance to sign up for Lawrence Academy's entomology course, which explores insects' various effects "“ both good and bad "“ on the world. Through laboratory investigations, field experiences, and class discussions, students will learn how to collect and identify the major groups of insects.

Famous Alumni: Lawyer Jim Sokolove, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, and Phish keyboardist Page McConnell all attended Lawrence Academy.

6. Groton School "“ Groton, MA

Day School Tuition: $33,260

groton.jpgHistory: Groton, a coed school of nearly 400 students, was founded in 1884 by Rev. Endicott Peabody, who attended Cheltenham College in England. In 2007, the school's Trustees voted to offer admission free to students whose family income is less than $75,000.

Notable: A good first impression can be made with a firm handshake, and at Groton, students receive plenty of practice. Each student shakes the hand of his or her dorm head every day, a tradition that dates back to the school's founding.

Course Catalog: One of the more unique courses offered at the Groton School is an ethics course titled, "C.S. Lewis and the Problem of Evil." Through readings of such works as The Chronicles of Narnia, the class will attempt to define evil and explain how it exists and operates.

Famous Alumni: Former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, FDR, and Curtis Sittenfeld, the author of Prep, attended Groton.

7. Hotchkiss School "“ Lakeville, CT

Day School Tuition: $34,250

hotchkiss.jpgHistory: Maria Harrison Bissell Hotchkiss founded The Hotchkiss School in 1891 as an all-boys preparatory school for Yale. The school became coed in 1971 and the number of males and females attending Hotchkiss today is roughly equal.

Notable: The school places great emphasis on connecting its students to the world abroad. Hotchkiss began recruiting students from China in 1912, while Forrest Mars, a Hotchkiss graduate and the grandson of the Mars candy bar creator, has sponsored two student trips to Antarctica.

Course Catalog: "Gender and International Development," an economics course, seeks to answer the question of whether equality between the sexes is linked to economic growth. Physics students compete in the annual Cardboard Boat Regatta, in which participants build two-person boats out of five sheets of corrugated cardboard and two rolls of masking tape.

Famous Alumni: Henry Luce and Briton Hadden, the eventual founders of Time magazine, met while working on the school newspaper at Hotchkiss.

8. Phillips Andover Academy "“ Andover, MA

Day School Tuition: $30,500

school-8.jpgHistory: Phillips Academy was established in 1778 as an all-boys school and is the country's oldest incorporated boarding school. The motto non sibi, meaning "not for self," was forged into Phillips Andover Academy's seal in 1782 by Paul Revere. Today, the school has more than 1,000 students with a student-teacher ratio of 5 to 1.

Notable: Most high school students take field trips to art galleries. At Andover, two large collections are mere footsteps away. The Addison Gallery of American Art features an extensive collection by such artists as Winslow Homer and Georgia O'Keefe. The neighboring Peabody Museum of Archaeology houses a collection of more than 500,000 artifacts related to Native American cultures. The museum staff leads students on excavation projects at dig sites throughout North America several times a year.

Course: Among the 300 different courses and 150 electives that students may take at Andover is the psychology course, "The Brain and You: A Users Guide."

Famous Alumni: Perhaps the notorious cut-off sweatshirt that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wears on the sidelines is his way of rebelling against the more formal attire he was required to wear as a student at Andover. Other famous graduates include George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, actress Dana Delany, JFK Jr., Peter Sellers, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder.

9. Phillips Exeter Academy "“ Exeter, NH

Day School Tuition: $29,330

exeter.jpgHistory: Phillips Exeter Academy was founded in 1781 by Harvard graduate John Phillips, the uncle of Andover Academy founder Samuel Phillips. The school became coed in 1970. Exeter's huge endowment reached $1 billion in 2007, but has since dipped to around $700 million.

Notable: Exeter devotes about $60,000 a year to each of its students, which includes maintaining the Class of 1945 Library, the largest secondary school library in the world with more than 150,000 volumes.

Course Catalog: Through case studies of countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, students tackle an important question in the course, "Why Are Poor Nations Poor?"

Famous Alumni: Daniel Webster, Franklin Pierce, Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and CNBC anchor Trish Regan are but a few of Exeter's famous graduates.

10. Kent School "“ Kent, CT

Day School Tuition: $34,500

kent.jpgHistory: The Kent School was founded as an all-boys school in 1906 by Rev. Frederick Herbert Sill, an Episcopal monk and Columbia graduate who believed there was a connection between intellectual effort and spiritual reward. Kent, which was the first secondary school in the country to charge tuition on a sliding scale, became coed in 1960.

Notable: While its values and mission have remained constant, the Kent School prides itself on innovation. The school began providing tablet PCs to every student and teacher in 1995 as one of the 29 pioneering schools of the Anytime, Anywhere Learning Program.

Course Catalog: Kent offers a number of interesting English courses, including "The Ghost Story" and "Micro Fiction," in which students read and write stories that are no longer than 55 words.

Famous Alumni: KT Tunstall formed her first band, "The Happy Campers," while attending Kent School on a scholarship. Actor Ted Danson and director Peter Farrelly are among the other famous graduates of the school.

11. Cambridge School of Weston "“ Weston, MA

Day School Tuition: $32,500

weston.jpgHistory: While its roots date back to the founding of the Cambridge School for Girls in 1886, the school moved to Weston and reopened under its current name with a class of 106 students in 1931.

Notable: The Lab System was instituted during the school's first year in Weston. Under the system, students chose an academic area to study for 2 hours at the beginning of each day as teachers provide guidance. That same year, students constructed the Hobby House, a space for the school's woodworking classes. Today, the Hobby House is used as the Admissions and Development Building.

Course Catalog: Among the new additions to CSW's curriculum of more than 300 courses for 2009-10 is "Art of Prediction," a history course that explores the establishment of a new world-view from the time of the Scientific Revolution through the development of an atomic bomb.

Famous Alumni: Helen Keller studied for one year at the school in 1896, while Paul Glaser, who played detective David Starsky in the '70 television show Starsky and Hutch, attended CSW before pursuing his undergraduate degree at Tulane.

12. Miss Porter's School "“ Farmington, CT

Day School Tuition: $31,850

miss-porter.jpgHistory: Sarah Porter, the scholarly daughter of a Farmington minister, was tutored by Yale professors as a young woman and founded Miss Porter's School in 1843. In addition to a rigorous curriculum, Porter demanded that her students remain physically active; to that end, the school formed a baseball team in 1867. Following Porter's death in 1900, her nephew and his wife took control of the school, which was incorporated as a non-profit institution in 1943. Today, the school boasts more than 300 students.

Notable: In keeping with the school's dedication to service, all students who enter the school as freshmen and sophomores must complete 20 hours of community service before they graduate. Students who enter as juniors and seniors must complete at least 10 hours. All-Star awards are given to seniors who complete over 100 hours of community service.

Course Catalog: Miss Porter's School has long placed great emphasis on the arts, and it shows in the school's course offerings. While newspapers as we know them may be dying, students enrolled in "The Living Newspaper" research, write, and perform original plays based on current events.

Famous Alumni: Ruth Hanna McCormick, the first woman elected to Congress from Illinois, graduated from Miss Porter's School in 1897. Fifty years later, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis earned her degree. More recently, Heather Lynch, the director of public relations for J. Crew, took part in the traditional hanging of the daisy wreath at commencement.

13. Governor's Academy "“ Byfield, MA

Day School Tuition: $32,600

school-10.jpgHistory: The Governor's Academy, which was established as the Dumm'r Charity School in 1763 and was later known as Governor Dummer Academy, is the country's oldest continuously operating boarding school. Originally named after Massachusetts Governor William Dummer, the school's name was changed to The Governor's Academy in 2005. The campus includes an archives room, which houses the Document of Incorporation of Dummer Academy, which was signed by John Hancock and Samuel Adams in 1782. Today, the school is coed and has an enrollment of nearly 400 students.

Notable: The school's 500-acre campus outside of Boston hosts the Massachusetts Special Olympics Fall Soccer Tournament every year. Governor's Academy students help run the event by arranging the opening ceremonies, organizing public relations activities, registering the more than 800 athletes, and overseeing games during the round-robin tournament.

Course Catalog: In "Children's Literature," students will take an academic view of classics such as Charlotte's Web and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. For their final project, students will be required to produce an original piece of children's literature that will be shared with the faculty's young children. Perhaps those children should determine each student's grade, too.

Famous Alumni: Booker T. Washington, Jr., played on the football team, while Theophilus Parsons, a Chief Justice of Massachusetts and author of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, also attended the school.

14. Hill School "“ Pottstown, PA

Day School Tuition: $29,000

potts.jpgHistory: The Hill School was founded in 1851 by Rev. Matthew Meigs as the "Family Boarding School for Boys and Young Men" and remained an all-boys school until 1998. Student enrollment has traditionally been around 500 students; the school's official song is called "A Thousand Hands."

Notable: One of the many traditions at Hill School is the J-Ball tournament held each spring. J-Ball is short for Javelin Ball, a game created by Hill School students that combines tennis with baseball. The game is played on a baseball field, but players use tennis racquets instead of bats and tennis balls instead of baseballs. Only one player on each team is allowed to use a glove.

Course Catalog: Students enrolled in the school's "Fine Woodworking" class in the fall will design and build a custom skateboard deck with paint and graphics for their class project. Students who take the course in the winter and spring will build a fully functional glass-bottomed canoe.

Famous Alumni: Legendary Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, who coined the term "Super Bowl," Oliver Stone, and Donald Trump, Jr. attended Hill School.

15. Dana Hall "“ Wellesley, MA

Day School Tuition: $33,981

dana-hall.jpgHistory: Dana Hall opened in 1881 as an all-girls preparatory school for Wellesley College. The first class of 18 students paid $325 for board and tuition.

Notable: Dana Hall has an equestrian team and students are welcome to board their own horses in the school's 45-stall Riding Center. The school provides veterinarian and blacksmith care for the horses, as well as private, semi-private, and group riding lessons for students.

Course Catalog: Through English readings of classical texts, students enrolled in "Women in the Classical World" take a closer look at how Greek and Roman attitudes toward women helped shape Americans' view of women today. The third trimester of the class is devoted to independent research projects related to material presented in the course.

Famous Alumni: Cynthia Voigt, an author of numerous young adult books, and Nina Garcia, former editor of Elle magazine and a judge on Project Runway, both attended Dana Hall.

5 Actors Who Could Play the Next Batman

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by Natalie Zamora

Ben Affleck's casting as the Caped Crusader wasn't exactly met with a lot of excitement. While many DC fans were (and still are) happy with the casting, many definitely weren't, and even took it upon themselves to think of who could replace him. Now, with Affleck's role in Matt Reeves's upcoming The Batman completely unknown, it's worth looking at who has been actually rumored to take his place.

5. JAKE GYLLENHAAL

Jake Gyllenhaal attends the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival - 'The Sisters Brothers' premiere at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 8, 2018
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images

As early as November 2017, Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal has been rumored to be playing the next Batman. Reportedly, Gyllenhaal had a meeting with Matt Reeves, something reporter Rob Keyes tweeted out at the time. When asked about the possibility, the actor shot it down, saying, "Wow, that’s a very difficult question. The answer to that question is no."

4. RYAN GOSLING

Ryan Gosling attends the 'First Man' press conference during 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 11, 2018
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images

Another acclaimed actor, Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling has also been rumored to take on the role of Bruce Wayne for some time. When recently asked at the Toronto International Film Festival if he would consider, Gosling simply said, "I don't know," before joking that if his First Man and La La Land director Damien Chazelle made it, he'd be in.

3. JOSH BROLIN

Josh Brolin attends the 'Sicario Day Of The Soldado' Photo Call at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on June 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images

Although Josh Brolin now plays two major Marvel characters, Cable and Thanos, he once confirmed he was in the running for Ben Affleck's role in 2016. Ultimately, Brolin backed out after he had disagreements with Zack Snyder on how the character should be played. Ever since Affleck's departure from directing The Batman, Brolin has been rumored to take the role.

2. MATTHEW GOODE

Actor Matthew Goode attends the 'The Imitation Game' New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater in 2014
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images for The Weinstein Company

Like Brolin, Matthew Goode was also one of the actors in the running to play Batman before Ben Affleck was cast. He was also reportedly considered for the roles of both Superman and Lex Luthor. Clearly, Goode would be welcomed into the DCEU. Now would be the perfect time.

1. JON HAMM

Jon Hamm attends the Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures And New Line Cinema's 'Tag' at Regency Village Theatre on June 7, 2018 in Westwood, California
Jerritt Clark, Getty Images

Ever since Jon Hamm played the dark and brooding role of Don Draper on Mad Men, fans have been rallying for him to play Batman. Though rumors have been circulating for years, Hamm just recently revealed that he has never had a conversation about the possibility. However, he did say he would be interested, if the script was good.

13 Secrets of Obituary Writers

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When Chicago Sun-Times obituary writer Maureen O’Donnell sits down to assess the lives of the recently departed, she feels less like a journalist and more like a historian. “I sometimes feel like I’m a frustrated history teacher,” she tells Mental Floss. “I get to teach a lesson every day and share it with readers.”

Unlike death notices, which only recite basic facts about the deceased, or funeral eulogies, which offer impassioned remembrances from loved ones, obituaries are a written memorial of a person’s legacy published for the world to see. Instead of dwelling on death they celebrate life, from the most recognizable celebrity to the quietest neighbor. They prove that almost everyone has a story to tell, and it’s sometimes only after a passing that people realize exactly how a person has left their mark in the world.

O’Donnell recalls a 2010 death notice for a Montana resident named Jim Cole, which mentioned his interest in photographing grizzly bears. Only after excavating details of his life did she realize Cole is the only person in North America to survive two grizzly attacks, 14 years apart. “They called him Grizzly Jim,” she says. “He wore an eyepatch because the second attack left him without an eye.” (Cole died of natural, not wildlife-related, causes at age 60.)

For more on how obituary writers approach the delicate art of human posterity, we asked several of them—including O’Donnell—to tell us about their work. Here’s what they had to say about a life spent covering death.

1. THEY LOOK FOR THE “ROSEBUD” MOMENT.

John Pope, who writes for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and assembled a book of obituaries, Getting Off at Elysian Fields, says that the goal of his work is to discover the “Rosebud” moment of an individual’s life. (That's a reference to the 1941 film Citizen Kane, and the desire of a reporter to define the mysterious dying word uttered by wealthy business magnate Kane.) “I look for ‘Rosebud,’ what makes a person tick,” he says. “When you talk to relatives, they talk about how he loved family, how he loved life, but you need to keep going and dig deeper.”

In 2009, Pope was tasked with profiling William Terral, a beloved pediatrician and gardening hobbyist. While the former was a noble career, Pope found his real jewel in the fact that Terral was once so struck by the bag of plasma separated from his blood during a medical procedure that he took it home, hung it from an IV hook, and pumped the liquid into the ground to see if it would help his garden grow. “His hibiscus flourished,” Pope says. So did his obituary.

2. IT’S ACTUALLY A PRETTY UPLIFTING JOB.

The stereotype of obituary writers toiling under the shadow of death, constantly aware of the fragile nature of life, isn’t exactly accurate. According to Pope, some family members have such fond memories of the deceased that talking to them can provoke a lot of amusement. “With Edward ‘Bud Rip’ Ripoll, a saloonkeeper, I had to ask his daughter to stop because I was laughing so hard and the stories were so good,” he says. (Ripoll was a Budweiser fan, and his urn was inscribed with the dedication, “This Bud’s for you.”)

O’Donnell describes it as “uplifting” work. “You’re frequently writing about people who made a difference in the world, large or small. The end of life is always sorrowful, but with someone like Mary White, who lived to be 93 and started the La Leche League [to normalize public breastfeeding] in her living room that now has tens of millions of members across the globe, that’s inspiring.”

3. THEY SOMETIMES KNOW WHEN DEATH IS IMMINENT.

Yellow flowers sit on top of a coffin
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Obituary writers have all kinds of information channels when it comes to mortality. Funeral homes may call to notify them; death notices in their paper or in another might provide a clue that a lesser-known person’s life is worth investigating further. Or they may simply be tipped off that the end is near. “For Barbara Harris, who was a founding member of Second City, one of my co-workers heard she was ill,” O’Donnell says. “I was able to prepare the obituary in advance, so when the time came, there was something comprehensive for readers available.”

Other times, that information can be a little off. When an editor was sure a prominent celebrity was going to die, Pope was told to prepare a lengthy obituary. “It was Paul Prudhomme, a chef who a line editor was convinced was going to launch to glory at any moment," Pope says. “He died 27 years later.”

4. THEY NEED TO BE READY FOR AN EMOTIONAL DELUGE.

Mike Bodine, who writes for the Sheet in Mammoth Lakes, California, says that an obituary writer will often be the first person a relative of the deceased has spoken to in depth about a loved one’s passing. “They can be really distraught,” he says. “It’s a matter of waiting it out while people just let their heart out. You can’t always use what they’re saying, but just listening and being patient can help open people up. It can feel a little bit like handling the body itself. You don’t want to push people.”

5. THEY CAN GET CAUGHT UP IN FAMILY SQUABBLES.

Phoning family members to collect memories of the recently deceased can be a sobering experience. Bodine says that children of the deceased can sometimes try to use an obituary to vent about personal vendettas. “When someone has passed and a lot of money and kids are involved, it can turn into animosity,” he says. “Someone will say a sibling is screwing them over on money. It’s just distortion you have to wade through.”

6. FAMILIES CAN GET UPSET AT THEM.

While an obituary writer’s job is to celebrate life, that doesn't mean they exclude the less-flattering components. When he was writing about a local politician, Pope discovered that he had once been to prison for misappropriating campaign funds. When he mentioned that in the obituary, the man’s daughter phoned in an uproar. “She asked why we were doing that. I told her it was because it was the truth.”

O’Donnell has had similar experiences. “Unfortunately, in Chicago, a lot of politicians have been investigated and convicted of corruption," she says. "It gets reported at the time it happened and readers would have known about it. It would be a disingenuous, fraud obituary if you didn’t include it.”

7. OTHER TIMES, PEOPLE LIE.

Family members may also omit certain facts. Because obituaries are perceived as the last word on many people, relatives and friends sometimes lean into the idea it should be a hagiography. “With [socialite] Mickey Easterling, no one was going to tell me her age,” Pope says. “I had to cite public records, which I’ve never had to do before.” On another occasion, the deceased’s loved ones refused to inform Pope that a suicide had occurred. He found out the truth months later, after listing the cause of death as “undetermined” in the obituary.

8. IT’S BETTER TO DIE ON CERTAIN DAYS THAN OTHERS.

A death certificate sits on top of a table
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If you want a well-read obituary, try to die on a Friday. According to Pope, people who expire that day of the week are more likely to be targeted for inclusion in the Sunday edition of the paper, which affords more space and more time for the obituary writer to do a thorough job. “Dying on a Friday will get you more play on a Sunday,” he says. Holidays are also ill-advised times to make an exit, as reporters with dedicated beats (politics, movies, sports) aren’t usually around to assist in reporting notable deaths in those fields, and readership is down.

While you'd think the dying and their associates would have more pressing issues, sometimes they prioritize that recognition: In 1936, King George V's physician injected the monarch with enough morphine and cocaine to hasten his death in time for the next morning's papers, rather than the less-desirable evening editions.

9. PEOPLE CAN BE A LITTLE NERVOUS AROUND THEM.

When an obituary writer becomes well-known in the community, their very presence can portend bad news. If Pope needs to phone someone for any reason other than someone’s passing, he’ll sometimes begin the call by saying, “It’s Pope. No one died.”

That slight unease can work both ways. Once, Pope walked into a social gathering where three people whose obituaries he had already written and banked for future use were standing. “I just kind of stopped,” he says.

10. THEY GET INVITED TO FUNERALS.

Obituaries are often treasured by families who appreciate how a writer has summarized and memorialized the deceased. Sometimes, that gratitude can extend to invitations to come to the funeral. “That happens with some frequency,” O’Donnell says. “I went to the services for a rock concert roadie, who I didn’t know, but he worked a lot of rock concerts I went to the in 1970s. I met a lot of people there who went to the same concerts.”

Other times, they’ll be dispatched to cover the funeral for the purposes of writing a piece. “I went to Al Copeland’s funeral, the founder of Popeyes Chicken,” Pope says. “There were 24 white Bentleys, a horse-drawn hearse, and a band playing ‘My Way.’” The solemn music continued until the procession reached the grave, at which point they broke into “Love That Chicken From Popeyes.”

11. CERTAIN PHRASES CAN ANNOY THEM.

Work the death beat long enough and certain recurring phrases begin to wear on a writer’s patience. Pope dislikes using the term the late to precede a decedent’s name. “What’s the point?” he says. “Can we get over that?” He also dislikes funeral service because “it’s redundant,” and avoids using “natural causes” as the reason for a death whenever possible, because it's non-specific. "Always get the cause of death," he says.

12. SOME PEOPLE USE OBITS TO TAKE REVENGE.

A highlighter is run over the word 'revenge'
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O’Donnell says she's struck by the more contemporary practice of “revenge” obituaries, which are penned by family members and tend to criticize their departed relative for allegations relating to abuse or other personal reasons that have prompted a vendetta. Pope recalls a time when a widow sent in a death notice to his paper claiming her late husband’s law firm had sent him to an early grave. “We spent a day with lawyers de-fanging it,” he says.

13. THEY HAVE THEIR OWN AWARDS SHOW CALLED “THE GRIMMYS.”

Acting as a kind of unofficial trade organization, the Society of Professional Obituary Writers invites devotees of the dead to exchange information on their work and attend functions like ObitCon. Each year, awards—known as the Grimmys—are awarded for best long- and short-form obituaries, as well as for lifetime achievement. The trophy resembles a tombstone. “I was nominated last year,” Pope says.

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